GVSU designated ‘Voter Friendly Campus’

GVL / Audra Gamble

GVL / Audra Gamble

Celia Harmelink

Grand Valley State University has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus” by the Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

Out of the 83 universities in the country to be awarded this designation, only three are located in Michigan: Hope College, Michigan State University and GVSU.

Melissa Baker-Boosamra, associate director of student life, civic engagement and assessment, said GVSU worked closely with Allendale Township, Ottawa County and the Michigan secretary of state authorities to plan the voter registration campaign and make sure they were educated on the process.

“Earlier in the spring of 2016, we submitted a proposal to the ‘Voter Friendly Campus’ designation, which has been facilitated by both NASPA and the Campus Vote Project,” she said. “So, in spring of 2016, we put together basically a plan for how we would make Grand Valley a voter friendly campus.”

These efforts paid off, as GVSU now holds the record as the university with the most registration applications submitted in one day to the secretary of state mobile unit.

“The Michigan mobile secretary of state made the rounds across the state to different campuses throughout the fall in an effort to get students registered to vote, and Grand Valley holds the title for registering the most students during that mobile unit visit,” Baker-Boosamra said.

The term “voter friendly campus” can have different meanings to different people. Baker-Boosamra said she would define it as a place where students know their voices are valued.

“(Students) know what the issues are that they are going to be voting on, so they’re educated on the issues,” she said. “They know how to go about getting registered, and they are encouraged to go out and actually vote.”

Alyssa Harris, a freshman student at GVSU, said the voter registration process was very easy. Because her hometown is hours away from the university, she was unsure if she would be able to vote, but she said GVSU made the process simple for her.

“It was definitely easy,” she said. “During the week of voting, they had a bus. The bus dropped you off to vote, and then it picked you back up, and when you got back, there was free pizza.”

GVSU made sure that students with busy schedules would still be able to vote by having shuttles run continuously throughout the day of the presidential election.

“They kept the bus shuttle running really late, so I had work and classes that day, but I could still go vote,” Harris said.

Moving forward, Baker-Boosamra hinted that there are a number of emerging GVSU projects related to politics and democratic engagement. As the semester ends, so do many current civic engagement projects, such as the Democracy 101 series that aimed to help students understand different areas of politics.

Some upcoming projects include working with a local news source to get students involved with journalism and civic responsibility, working with Housing and Residence Life to create a new curriculum for resident assistants and mentors and potentially even having former members of Congress visit GVSU.

“We’re actually just starting to explore a program called Congress to College,” Baker-Boosamra said. “This is an opportunity to host those folks on campus for discussions on both their experience in Congress but also kind of more broadly speaking what students and student organizations, student government, kind of what their role is in a democracy. So, we’ve got a lot in the works. We’re hoping to roll much of this out in the fall.”

Students can learn more at www.gvsu.edu/service/democracy.